Skip to main content

Full text of "Oliver Beverly"

See other formats


VOLUME 4, NUMBER 6 THE FOURTH DECADE X SEPTEMBER, 1997 7 

NIGHTMARE IN DALLAS: A REVIEW 

by 

John Delane Williams 

Nightmare in Dallas is the autobiographical story of 
the "Babushka Lady" written by Beverly Oliver, with 
Coke Buchanan [1]. As is typically true of firsthand 
accounts, no footnotes or references are encountered, 
even when their use would be required; for example, 
several JFK speeches are quoted at length without cita- 
tion. The co-authorship of Coke Buchanan (who appar- 
ently had a large hand in the actual writing) is due at least 
in part to some serendipitous parallels in their lives — 
while Oliver was in Dealey Plaza, the younger Buchanan 
was at Love Field, viewing the arrival of JFK. Three years 
later, they were both working at the same restaurant in 
Dallas, she as a singer and he as a waiter, though they 
only became aware of this mutuality in 1992, when 
Buchanan was writing an article regarding the JFK assas- 
sination. 

Though they separate the book into six parts, the book 
can be seen as in two parts, the first part ending shortly 
after JFK's death, and the second part continuing on with 
Oliver's life. The first part intertwines the chronology of 
Oliver's and JFK's lives, with JFK's life recorded to a 
considerable degree by lengthy quotes from his speeches, 
one of which goes on for seven pages. The reason for the 
inclusion of Kennedy's speeches was to help re-establish 
the memory of Kennedy's presidency, in contradistinc- 
tion to the more recent focusing on the negative aspects 
of Kennedy's personal life. [2] 

At the age of 1 4, Beverly Oliver, who lived in Garland 
(a Northeast suburb of Dallas) had appeared in a variety 
of Western venues as a singer. She went to the Colony 
Club in Dallas (a strip tease club which was a near 
neighbor of Jack Ruby's Carousel Club) and was in- 
volved in two amateur strip-tease contests on a dare. 
Jack Ruby introduced himself to heron the street after the 
second contest. At 14, Oliver also found herself preg- 
nant. She gave birth to a baby girl on February 22, 1 962. 
The child was given up for adoption. In the summer of 
1962, she got a job as a saloon singer at the family 
amusement park. Six Flags Over Texas. There, she met 
Larry Ronco, an Eastman Kodak representative who kept 



21 



John Delane Williams 
522 Belmont Rd. 

Grand Forks , ND 58201-4906 



VOLUME 4, NUMBER 6 



THE FOURTH DECADE 



SEPTEMBER, 1997 



the park in film and plastered the park with pictures of the 
attractive Miss Oliver. When it was found out that she 
had performed at the Colony Club, she lost the Six Flags 
job. When the season ended, Ronco stayed in Dallas, 
continuing to see Oliver, eventually proposing to her, 
though his own marriage was not yet ended. 

Oliver then went to work for the Colony Club as a 
singer between strip acts. She also began to cultivate a 
relationship with Jack Ruby at the nearby Carousel Club. 
Before 1 962 was ended, she had accompanied Ruby on 
one of his many trips. She apparently added "class" to 
Ruby; there apparently was no sexuality in their arrange- 
ment. 

1963 brought additional complexities to the life of 
young Miss Oliver. She accompanied Ruby to New 
Orleans (Oliver doesn't give a time, but Kantor (3] puts 
this in June, 1963) as Ruby was booking Jada (Janet 
Conforto) to dance in his club. Ronco returned from 
New York, not with divorce in hand, but rather with a 
not yet publicly available Yashika movie camera for 
Beverly. Ruby tried to talk Ronco out of the camera; the 
best he could get was that Ronco said he would get Ruby 
one "when he could get his hands on another one". 
Inferring from what was known later (Ronco had alleg- 
edly stolen a painting, p. 141), Ronco may have stolen 
the prototype camera (it was placed in general release 
in 1 965 [4]) when he was employed by Eastman Kodak 
(this inference is the present writer's and not made by 
Oliver). 

Oliver had seen David Ferrie around the Carousel 
Club so much that she thought he might be an assistant 
manager. She also saw Roscoe White at the Carousel 
Club; his presence there was not unusual, since his wife 
Geneva was employed at the Carousel as a hostess; 
Oliver knew Roscoe White only as Geneva's husband. 
Oliver was introduced to Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack 
Ruby; Jada was also present (again, Oliver does not give 
a date, but it would appear that this would have occurred 
between November 8 and November 1 2). A few days 
later, Oswald was thrown out of the Carousel by Ruby for 
disturbing a comedy routine. At about the same time, 
Ronco claimed that Ferrie offered him $50,000 to kill 
Castro. 

November 21-22, 1963 

On the 21st, Oliver went to the Carousel Club; she 
intended to attend several parties with Ruby. She talked 
briefly with Jada. Oliver was wearing the green and 
white polka-dot silk dress purchased for her by Ruby. 



Ruby took offense that, since Oliver was staying up all 
night and then, without changing, watching the JFK 
motorcade. .."You mean you're going to wear the dress 
I bought you down to see that S.O.B.?" Around 9 PM. 
Ruby and Oliver entered the Cubana Hotel. Oliver says 
that Larry Meyers was introduced to her (Meyers, a 
sporting goods salesman from Chicago has said that he 
met with Ruby at the Cabana on November 21 ; (5) no 
mention was made of Ol i ver.) Another of the mysterious 
people with them was a person referred to as "Donny 
Lance", whom Oliver danced with and who presumably 
was a "business" associate of Ruby's, (pp. 108-109) 
Ruby, Meyers and Oliver then went to Campisi's (The 
Egyptian Lounge) for steaks around 1 0 P.M. (Curiously, 
Ruby had reportedly gone to dinner that evening with 
Ralph Paul, a business associate and co-owner of the 
Carousel Club. [6] They (Ruby, Meyers and Oliver) 
returned to the Cabana Hotel where Oliver put on a dark 
wig and went to a party with an unnamed escort (a 
curious part of the Oliver-Buchanan writing is the drop- 
ping in of little mysteries) in Ft. Worth around 1 A.M. 
Perhaps, it was the second time they went to the Cabana 
Hotel that is described by Kantor, [7] which would 
explain why Oliver was not mentioned as being at the 
meeting. Ruby is also said to have gone to breakfast at 
2:30 A.M. with Larry Crafard, a handy-man employee at 
the Carousel Club. One interpretation of this conflicting 
information is that an attempt to establish an alibi was 
being made for Ruby. [8] 

From Ft. Worth, Oliver took a taxi back to Dallas. She 
reached her car in The Colony Club parking lot around 
1 1 :1 0 A.M. on the 22nd. There, she changed her shoes, 
got the camera and proceeded to look for a good vantage 
point to film the presidential motorcade. She chose a 
place near the curb on Elm Street next to a father and son 
(Charles Brehm and his son; Brehm was among the first 
witnesses to be interviewed; see [9]). As the motorcade 
came into view, Oliver began to film. She likely had a 
good recording of the Texas School Book Depository as 
JFK turned onto Elm. She continued filming even after 
JFK was hit. She stood motionless as many others began 
running toward the picket fence, where Oliver assum 
the shots had emanated. She recognized Roscoe W 
(sans his gun) and felt he recognized her. Oliver n 
drove home, taking a sleeping pill and then going o 
sleep. 

November 23-27 

When Oliver awakened and heard Oswald ha 



22 



I \ fuf 4. NUMBER 6 



THE FOURTH DECADE 



SEPTEMBER, 1997 



| with shooting JFK from the Texas School Book 
it didn't make sense to her. JFK was shot 
Tjfront not from behind. The person who was 
1 4 of the assassination had only recently been 

red to her. On Sunday, she found out about the 
of Oswald by Ruby by watching television. 
yyt^fToiiver was going back to the Colony Club to sing 
* Monday evening, she was met by two men, probably 
bon the FBI (she later identified one of the men as Regis 
Jteoncdy, from the FBI in New Orleans). They took her 
Lnyjeveloped film, told her it would be returned in a few 
Jjyt and left. As she went into the club, two reporters 
Dked her about Jack Ruby. She denied knowing him. 
Oliver remembers saying "If they could kill the President 
Of the United States, they could kill a two-bit show girl 
like me and it wouldn't even make the back page of the 
new*papcr"(p. 133). On Wednesday, Oliver wentto the 
Carousel to find that Jada was gone, never again to be 
Ittrn or heard of by Oliver. 

Married to the Mob 

I The relationship with Larry Ronco was short-lived; 
Ifoneo changed after the assassination; his pursuit of 
Oliver became so over-bearing that she obtained a 

E * ilnlngorder. Later, she heard that Ronco committed 
do. Oliver met a gambler named George McGann. 
were married on July 31,1 966. The reception was 
hosted by Tony and Janie Janero. Shortly afterward, 
McCann admitted "wasting" Tony, who had gotten too 
j*i behind in paying his bills. McGann and Oliver took 
^jOvcr the Janero nightclub, the Sky Ki ng. At a get-together 
tit McCann's friends (including, she determined later, 
^Charles Harrel son), the JFK assassi nation came up. When 
^Oliver tried to enter the discussion, McGann forceably 
I Oliver from the room, threatening to kill her if 
ever talked about it again. The gambling and 
ccasional killing continued until McGann'sown death 
jrred under suspicious circumstances on September 
h 1970, following the death of their son George 
*y 0* was given an assumed name) who was less 
1 three hours old. In the six chapters devoted to her 
with George McGann, Oliver fails to discuss her 
her husband and Richard Nixon at the 
Republican National Convention, which is re- 
in interviews with Gary Shaw. [10] The only 
1 °f the Nixon encounter in the present book is a 

c (p. 197) wherein she describes her meetings 

> Shaw. • 

Oliver's existence from 1 4 to 24 would < 



I seem 



to be the stuff of Hollywood scripts but not the stuff of a 
real life. At a very young age, she was confronted by 
twists of fate that must have tried her very soul . At 1 7, she 
had given a child up for adoption, performed in a strip 
tease show, sung in a variety of venues, but most recently 
in strip clubs, made the acquaintance of what would 
become the Who's Who of the JFK assassination, wit- 
nessed that assassination from a few feet away, and 
recorded that assassination on camera. That is heady 
stuff which few of us would have the emotional stability 
to withstand, particularly at 1 7. 

Life Goes On 

Prior to George's death, Oliver became involved in 
fundamental Christian religion, adding her voice to the 
choir, and often attended revivals. At one such revival, 
she met Gary Shaw, and over time, gave him several 
i nterviews. She also met an evangel ist, Charles Massagee; 
they were married a few weeks later. If her life had been 
on an emotional roller-coaster, at least she now had 
someone she could depend upon. If the life of the wife 
of an itererant Baptist evangelist can be normal, then it 
would appear that some degree of normalcy had finally 
come to her. That is not to say her life was easy; she 
developed lupus, and a second son, Trey, died when he 
was not yet three months old. A second daughter, 
Pebbles, was born. Pebbles also appeared to be ill; a 
suspected familial genetic disorder, primary 
hyperoxaluria, may have been involved. Oliverdonated 
a kidney to her daughter, despite having lupus. As of 
July, 1997, Pebbles has had a total of four transplants, 
including a I i ver transplant; the concern for her daughter 
in the present seems more removed from Dealey Plaza 
than a mere 34 years. [1 1 ] 

Shaw had Oliver look at a variety of pictures to see 
whom she might identify from the past. She identified 
pictures of Guy Banister, and New Orleans attorney 
Dean Andrews, who had earlier represented Oswald; all 
had shown up at the Carousel Club. Also identified was 
Jack Lawrence, (who was "Donny Lance", whom she 
had seen on several occasions at the Carousel and 
danced with at one time; while she doesn't explicitly say 
that Lawrence was Lance in the book, she does so in 
[1 2)). Jack Lawrence was reported to have been arrested 
on the afternoon of November 22, 1963; he was suppos- 
edly acti ng suspiciously d i rectly after the assassi nation at 

the Downtown Lincoln Mercury dealership, two blocks 
from Dealey Plaza. He had borrowed one of the firm's 
cars the evening of November 21 for a "heavy" date. The 



Httt 



23 



' VOLUME 4, NUMBER 6 



THE FOURTH DECADE 



SEPTEMBER. 



car Lawrence used was found behind the picket fence at 
the grassy knoll. [13] Lawrence denies all of these 
allegations. [14] Inkol, who considers himself to be 
"careful researcher/' [15] had earlier concluded that 
"...Lawrence was part of the conspiracy that killed 
President Kennedy..." [1 6, p. 1 2] (Perhaps Inkol should 
have been more "careful"). Inkol made a considerable 
turnaround after interviewing Lawrence. It is difficult to 
assess Lawrence's activities regarding Dallas, 1 963. On 
the one hand, he appears to come under two of Van 
Wynsberghe's [1 7] rules of thumb as to the usefulness of 
a source's information regarding the assassination: "The 
source defies corroboration", and 'The source is trailed 
by nagging details." To be sure, Van Wynsberghe also 
questions the reliability of Oliver, claiming she demands 
faith in her story and citing additionally two of Oliver's 
writings as indicating this expectation of faith/belief 
[18,19]. Perhaps it is a matter of interpretation but I don't 
Find Miss Oliver, either in her writing or in her interview 
with me, to demand that she be believed, but rather, that 
her story be seriously considered. It could also be 
pointed out that the inclusion or exclusion of Lawrence 
is not an essential component of her story. To be 
excluded is more important to Lawrence. Oliver says 
that "If it wasn't Lawrence she danced with on Novem- 
ber 21 , 1 963, then it must have been his identical twin." 
[20] The possibility of Lawrence being "set-up" by 
someone should not lightly be dismissed. However, it is 
clear that Lawrence's reported memory of events clashes 
with a variety of other reports about his activities. Rose 
renders the reasoned comment that the last word on 
Lawrence is not Lawrence's perogative. [21] 

Oliver may still be silent on some areas. There 
continue to be people that she still..."refused to ac- 
knowledge for fear of her life. There were people still 
alive who could kill her for breaking the code of silence 
about their activities." (p. 219) She also may be silent in 
personal areas that she sees as having no bearing on the 
assassination. 

Oliver went public, first on the British television pro- 
duction, Ihe Men Who KHJ^ Kennedy, which was later 
shown on American cable television. [22] She also 
served as a consultant and had a brief part in the movie 
1FK . [23] An interesting aside is that Jack Ruby taught 
Beverly Oliver how to shoot a gun. (p. 242) In light of 
this, it could call into question Tex Brown's assertion that 
he taught Ruby and Oswald how to fire guns just prior to 
the assassination. [24] It is possible of course that both 



Oliver and Brown are entirely truthful, but it would *iU 
bring up the question, "Why would Ruby go through th. 
motions of learning how to fire a gun if he already km 
how?" — unless going through the motions served sum. 
secondary purpose. 

Because of her own unanswered questions regard i ric- 
her part in the assassination, Oliver decided to under*;. . 
hypnosis. She was concerned that someone may h.n. 
been programmed to shoot at JFK when they saw th» 
woman in the green and white polka-dot dress; m.\\ 
that Sirhan Sirhan had met with a woman in a polka*<i« .* 
dress immediately before Sirhan fired at Robert Kenneth 
[25] She was also wanting to know why she had a vm 
uneasy feeling about her last visit to Larry Ronu* 
apartment, when she saw something and then did not g. . 
in — but could not recall what she saw. The chapter i >n 
Oliver's hypnosis demonstrates a positive approach ith.it 
is, in a thoughtful therapeutic environment) to hypnosi . 
though readers who are skeptical of hypnosis might 1>« 
far more willing to agree with followers [26] of Elizabeth 
Loftus [27] regarding the construction of "false memuu 
syndrome." U nder hypnosis, Oliver reconstructed ev< tit •. 
at Ronco's apartment. In the reconstruction, a man 
named Roberto Guzman, whom she had seen togethri 
with Ruby and Ferrie, was showing Ronco a gun. It was 
this episode that presumably caused her to break on 
relations with Ronco. 

Larry Howard and Some Unusual Stories 
Oliver met Larry Howard, the co-director of the |l k 
Center in Dallas, who has been told some unusual stories 
about the assassination, and has undoubtedly devel 
oped a keen sense of skepticism. One such story was in 
regard to Jack Ruby. In 1 980, a woman, not identified l>\ 
Oliver, living in Atlanta, received a press clipping about 
Johnny Roselli with a typed note saying "Gene Dunbai 
Jack Ruby, real name Jacob Rubenstein (and then signed 
in a secret code known to the woman's husband). 1 he 
woman and her husband knew the killer of Oswald as 
Gene Dunbar. Dunbar and her husband worked under- 
cover as information couriers for President Rooseve lt 
from March 1 933 to September 1 945. (Kantor not onh 
makes no mention of this in regard to Ruby, but also 
Ruby was drafted into the Army Air Force from mid 1 94 l 
to February 1946, serving at southern U.S. bases Ip 
202]). The Atlanta couple made contact with the person 
who sent the clipping, Thomas Kennedy, of Chicago 
who claimed to be Ruby. "Ruby" claimed that another 
man who was dying of cancer at the same time he wo> 



24 



VOLUME 4, NUMBER 6 



THE FOURTH DECADE 



SEPTEMBER, 1997 



in the Dallas hospital switched identities after the man 
was dead (recall that Ruby died of cancer less than a 
month after the diagnosis [28, pp. 429-433]). "Ruby" 
was then flown to Mexico City by Ferrie where alter- 
ations were made surgically of his face. The new "Ruby" 
had blue eyes, not dark as were Ruby's. Also, there 
seemed to be credible witnesses to Ruby's death. Still, 
Kennedy had a remarkable knowledge of Ruby that was 
unlikely to have been known by someone else. Also, 
when Oliver asked Kennedy what was the only gift that 
he had wrapped for her, Kennedy wrote, "a green and 
white polka-dot dress." 

Was Beverly Oliver Too Thin to be the Babushka Lady? 

A nagging question is the issue of weight. The 
"Babushka Lady" is termed "stocky" by Posner [29, p. 
260]. Others have questioned whether the "Babushka 
Lady" could possibly be the youthful Miss Oliver (in- 
cluding recently Whitmey [30]). Pictures of the "Babushka 
Lady" in Oliver's book (slipcase, 180, 181, 182) do 
indeed appear to be someone heavier than pictures of 
Beverly shown on page 1 77 (taken in 1 963, probably a 
publicity photo) page 1 78 (taken at Six Flags, supposedly 
in 1963, but probably in 1962) and at her wedding in 
1966. (p. 177) Two other pictures from 1963 (p. 178, 
with Larry Ronco and one taken in October by Ruby, p. 
177) would indicate a person whose weight could 
fluctuate rather rapidly. Not including the Six Flags 
picture (probably from 1962), the three 1963 pictures 
show Oliver carrying more weight than earlier or later. 
Oliver says that she obtained a picture of the "Babushka 
Lady" and had blow-ups done of the feet; Oliver has a 
particular deformation involving the placement and 
small size of her little toe. [31] Perhaps Miss Oliver can 
be persuaded to share these pictures with the research 
community. Pictures of the stocky Babushka Lady, 
acknowledged by Oliver to be her, are undoubtedly 
what she says they are. This is not to say that persons in 
the research community shouldn't seek additional con- 
firmation (or refutation) on this matter. 

Why Did Oliver Write This Book? 

Here, Oliver tells us why..."] have decided to write a 
book about my experience so that people who are 
interested will have a testimony with as much detail as 
possible, even if its significance seems trite. I want to 
record my story, get it behind me; then get on with my 
life." (p. 279) It would seem redundant to try to go 
beyond her statement. 

Thanks to Beverly Oliver Massagee and Gary Shaw 



Notes 

1 . Oliver, B. with Buchanan, C. (1 994). Nightmare in 
Dallas . Lancaster, PA: Starburst Publishers. 

2. Telephone interview with Beverly Oliver Massagee, 
July 22, 1997. 

3. Kantor, S. (1978). The Ruby Cover-up . New York: 
Kensington Pub. 

4. Oliver, B. (1994). Letter to the editor. The Fourth 
Decade. Vol. 1#2, 10-11. 

5. Kantor (1978). 

6. Rose, J.D. (1987). "You Don't Know Me, But You 
Will: The World of Jack Ruby", Ihe Third Decade 
Vol. 4#1 , 1-28. 

7. Kantor, The Ruby Cover-up . 

8. Moyer, M.A. & Gal lager, R.F. (1997), "Where Was 
Jack Ruby on November 21 and November 22? The 
Fourth Decade. Vol. 4#2, 7-14. 

9. "JFK Assassination: As It Happened (NBC, Novem- 
ber 22, 1963, rebroadcast, A&E, November 22, 
1988). 

1 0. Shaw, G. with Harris, L. (1 976). Cover-up . Cleburne, 
TX: the authors. 

11. Interview with Beverly Oliver Massagee, July 22, 
1997. 

12. Oliver, B. (1993). "Beverly Oliver Responds: An 
Open Letter to the Research Community." The Third 
Decade, Vol. 9#5, 9-13. 

13. Marrs, J. (1989). Crossfire : The Plot that Killed 
Kennedy . New York: Carroll & Graf. 

14. Inkol, S. (1992). "Jack Lawrence Responds". The 
Third Decade. Vol. 8#6, 1 -1 7. 

15. Inkol, S. (1997). Letter to the Editor, Ihe Fourth 
Decade. Vol. 4#5, 30-31 . 

16. Inkol, S. (1991). "Jack Lawrence, Assassin or Fall 
Guy?" The Third Decade. Vol. 7#5. 1-17. 

1 7. Van Wynsberghe, S. (1997). "Chauncey Holt and 
Problematic Sources". The Fourth Decade . Vol. 4#3, 
19-23. 

18. Oliver, B. (1993). "Beverly Oliver Responds: An 
Open Letter to the Research Community." The Third 
Decade. Vol. 9#5. 9-13. 

19. Oliver, B. (1994). Letter to the Editor, Ihe Fourth 
Decade. Vol. 1#2, 10-11. 

20. Interview with Beverly Oliver Massagee, July 22, 
1997. 

21 . Rose, J.D. (1 992) Editor's Note, Ihe Third Decade. 
Vol. 8#6, 17. 

22. The Men Who Killed Kennedy . (1988, October, 



25 



VOLUME 4, NUMBER 6 



THE FOURTH DECADE 



^EFfEMBER, 1997 

November). A&E Cable Television. 

23.1FK. (1991). (Motion picture, produced by Oliver 
Stone). 

24. Brown, R. with Lassiter, D. (1996). Broken Silenc e: 

The Truth About Lee Harvey Oswald. LB|, and the 
Assassination of JFK. New York: Pinnacle Press. 

25. Turner, W. & Christian, J. (1 993). The Assassination 
of Robert F. Kennedy : The Conspiracy and Cover-up. 

New York: Thunder Mouth Press. 

26. Pendergrast, M. (1995). Victims of Memory : Incest 
Accusations and Shattered Lives . Hinesburg, VT: 

Upper Access, Inc. 

27. Loftus, E. & Ketcham, K. (1 994). Ihe Myth of 
Repressed Memory : False Memories and the AMegai 
tions of Sexual Abuse . New York: St. Martin's Press. 

28. Marrs, Crossfire . 

29. Posner, G. (1993). Case Closed . New York: Random 
House. 

30. Whitmey, P.R. (1997). Letter to the Editor, Ihe 
Fourth Decade. Vol. 4#2, 29-30. 

31. Interview with Beverly Oliver Massagee, July 22, 

1997. 



26